Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a fucking zany show. Occupying a space between sitcom and live action Saturday evening cartoon, the exact tone of the show has often left me the feeling off balance. However, with its third season the trenchant and darkly boisterous show hits hard with some exacting comedy and truly hilarious moments delivered with expertly executed deadpan style.
The culturally and racially tone-deaf moments of past seasons – such as stereotypical portrayals of Asian Americans and the still mind-boggling choice to have the very much Caucasian Jaqueline (Jane Krakowski) be a woman with Native American heritage – could have one rightly wondering if series creators Robert Carlock and Tina Fey live in some kind of ivory tower. That’s especially true of Fey, with her much deserved fame, who has been the target for much of this criticism. One might be so inclined to accuse the wealthy woman of being out of touch, and that she should be more attuned to the latest socially progressive thought bubbles.
Season 3 seems to speak directly to this exact suggestion. Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) goes to college, where the bullies are those who aggressively accuse others of not checking their privilege or neglecting to use gender neutral pronouns, a selective feminism is used to rationalize such things as “women should drink just as much as men” at a kegger, and socially woke boys cry when a lady doesn’t think they’re special. Fey practically reaches through the screen, “SEE THEY’RE FUCKING BABIES. THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING—JUST LIKE THE REST OF US!”
It’s a hard hit for the often humourless liberal bastions some Ivy League colleges and universities have become, and it’s funny as fuck. It’s irreverent in an introspective way that’s not new to Kimmy, but the third season does take on an invariably political tone.
Lillian (Carol Kane) defends her right to fight gentrification while Tituss (Titus Burgess) gets scurvy as a side effect of the food desert that is the neighbourhood of East Dog Mouth. Which is ironic because we get to see Titus “lemonade,” which has plenty of vitamin C. Aside from the fact that turning the seminal Beyonce album into a verb, Tituss’s lemonading isn’t just a culturally hip reference and fun musical numbers. It also reaches something deeper and painfully real about the nature of romantic relationships.
Laura Dern guests stars as the finance of the one and only Reverend (Jon Hamm) who kept Kimmy and her cohort in the underground bunker, and has now found a woman to marry him while he rots in prison. Dern expertly, and heartbreakingly, portrays the kind of self-hating successful woman who has been with one asshole too many – the “I’m gonna fix you,” as Tituss squeaks.
Gender roles are further explored when Schmidt is recruited to stop her past bunkmate from doing anything drastic while running her own gender reversed cult (with boy husbands and everything). Being treated differently because you’re a woman is a thing, and this episode ‘splains it.
The first six episodes prove to be a hilarious referendum on ever shifting social mores of our time. This third season proves to possibly pack the most punch and deliver the most laughs.